A 4th of July reflection
This year my 4th of July was pretty quiet. Instead of attending a parade, or watching the fireworks at many local venues, we opted to clean out our garden shed, which was also affected by Saturday’s Storm. It was strange to look at our former driveway and also to hear traffic slow down on our road, as folks drove slowly by and in some cases took pictures or offered their opinions as they looked at the damage.
When I was a kid, my parents put a flag out for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. We would go to a parade, have a picnic and then watch the fireworks, either in our own city, or if we were really adventurous in San Francisco. Since moving here, I have attended the Fairlee/Orford parade many times with the fireworks following at Lake Morey. I have seen the fireworks at Kilowatt Field in Wilder, and at Storr’s Pond too.
As I pondered what it feels like to be an American today, my mind kept thinking of so many of the memorial statues that you can find, in any town, pretty much all over America. Many of these memorials will list the veterans from a certain war or in some cases a combination of all the wars their citizens have participated in. Most sobering for me, are the many Civil War statues in Vermont and New Hampshire, that list almost all the men of a community, who went off to fight, and did not return.
A memorial I see each day is in front of the church I was married in, in Thetford Center. It was funded by the American Legion, and tells the story of the 4 Chaplains. The Timothy Frost Church was fortunate to have one of these chaplains, George Fox, as their minister in 1936. But in 1942 he enlisted in the army and became one of the 4, who were on a troop ship the USS Dorchester. Hit by a German U boat, the ship began to sink. In order to save 4 more men, these men gave their life vests to others. Survivors said they linked arms, said prayers and sang hymns as the ship went down. What has always stuck with me the most when learning of this tale, was they were all from different faiths. A rabbi, a priest, a Methodist minister and a Baptist.
Coming back from a recent day trip, we came through Pittsfield Vermont off Route 100 near Killington. A lovely town, with a green, and a statue, commemorating their fallen soldiers. In Lebanon, on the green you can find another such memorial, right next to the bandstand. Looking across from there, you will find the Soldiers memorial building, built to commemorate those who fought in the war. It was first a library, but is now a museum.
The 4th of July is a good time to reflect on heroes, patriots, and folks who just help others, without giving it a 2nd thought. I have many veterans in my family, both my parents were in WWII, and my mother’s brother stayed in the Army and became a colonel. More recently, a nephew did two tours in Iraq, as a medic. But this week, my heroes are not those who get much attention, and to my knowledge no statue is built for them. My heroes for this 4th of July were the men and women in Thetford who worked tirelessly all weekend and gave up their holiday in order to restore roads, deliver water, and make sure everyone was safe. Starting with the crew who maintain our roads, the department of public works and the local contractors who pitched in, my thanks. The volunteer fire crew who put out cones, did house to house checks, and coordinated the evacuation to the school, all with an air of professional courtesy and care for those who were affected by the storm. The police, the American Red Cross, and the Select Board, and the many community members who offered food, shelter, or just a sympathetic comment, you all deserve a standing ovation for your diligence and continued efforts in our community.
As you drive about the Upper Valley, and beyond, take note
of those statues. Every name etched on
them represents someone who was willing to give their life to preserve the
freedom we so easily take for granted as Americans. And, the next time you get a chance, thank
those folks who clear your roads, fight your fires, teach your children, or distribute food at the local shelters. Their sacrifices may not be acknowledged with an effigy but they are heroes all the same.